Government-owned timber supplier ForestrySA has suspended the allocation of softwood logs to milling operations owned by Gunns Limited.
It is understood ForestrySA has stopped log supply to the Auspine Tarpeena mill and the smaller operation at Kalangadoo.
The news follows the Tasmanian timber giant suspending share trading last week.
While ForestrySA would not confirm if and why it had suspended log supply, The Border Watch understands it surrounds the issue of non-payment by Gunns over some time.
The Tarpeena Auspine facility — which is listed for sale by the timber giant — employs 160 workers and is one of the region’s largest milling operations.
While the suspension of supply will affect the Tarpeena mill, it is understood Gunns Limited has access to logs from private sources.
“Gunns are a significant contributor to the South East industry and a major customer of ForestrySA,” ForestrySA chairman John Ross said.
“We are waiting to see what evolves — it is a difficult time for them.”
He said Gunns Limited traditionally purchased a large volume of logs from ForestrySA.
The ForestrySA chair would not be drawn into commenting on whether the corporate entity had suspended log supply to Gunns.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Gunns would not comment on the log suspension issue yesterday.
“We don’t comment on our commercial relationships and the (Tarpeena) mill will be operating business as usual,” the spokesperson said.
Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union SA district assistant secretary Brad Coates said he was confident the mill would continue to operate.
“We’re pretty hopeful that there won’t be any job losses, but we can’t guarantee that,” Mr Coates said.
He argued the Tarpeena mill was likely to continue to operate because it had supply from private plantations.
“My understanding is that those logs are still coming in,” the union leader said.
But Mr Coates conceded the situation was “disconcerting”.
“People are a little bit nervous about what may happen, however at this stage it’s business as usual,” he claimed.
Following news of the log suspension, Mr Coates said he was “not really” surprised.
“We’ve been aware for some time that Gunns has had a cash flow problem,” he said.
“I don’t know how much money they owe ForestrySA, but obviously there’s an issue there — if you don’t pay you’re bills, you don’t get supplied with products.
“We’ve had no real cause for concern up until this stage because wages are being paid and entitlements are being met.”
Mr Coates argued the future of the company was reliant on a compensation package being negotiated between Gunns and the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments.
“It all hinges on compensation packages that are being currently negotiated with Gunns in Tasmania with regards to exiting the native timber industry in Tasmania,” he said.
“If that compensation package gets ticked off, my understanding is that they will have some cash flow to perhaps get themselves out of this situation that they’re in.”
He argued Gunns operations in the South East should remain profitable.
“We’re pretty hopeful that the South Australian operations here in the South East will be maintained because they are profitable operations, they’re not hugely but they’re still making a small profit,” Mr Coates said.
“They’re currently up for sale at the moment and we’d be pretty confident that a buyer will be found pretty quickly for those sites.
“We understand that there are several parties that have shown interest in buying the site, but with the uncertainty at the moment with the financial situation globally people are holding off.”
Mr Coates said the downturn in the building market should help Gunns with their log supply issue.
“That’s the only good thing about the downturn in the market, they don’t need the amount of logs they’d normally need to maintain full production,” the union boss said.
In a move to drive down debt, Gunns Limited sold its 50,000ha Green Triangle plantation estate for $107m to an American buyer in June.
The company plans to exit the Green Triangle and open a $2b new pulp mill in Tasmania.
• Giant ‘No Harvey Norman No!’ banner unfurled in the midst of Tasmanian forest destruction
This morning, 25 activists are unfurling a giant banner in a 72ha clearfell logging coupe in Tasmania’s south to protest retailer Harvey Norman’s continued sale of wood products sourced from native forests.
The banner, which states ‘No Harvey Norman No! Don’t buy forest destruction!’, is one of the largest banners ever unfurled in Australia, measuring 60 x 18 metres.
‘Harvey Norman continues to profit from the destruction of Australia’s spectacular native forests. Today, we are sending a very clear message from the decimated forest floor and unfurling this massive banner to show the Australian people where their furniture is coming from’ said Ula Majewski, spokesperson for The Last Stand.
Recently, Harvey Norman has been the focus of numerous campaign activities by different groups around Australia. A viral video parodying a Harvey Norman ad, which was released by Markets for Change and GetUp!, has received 100,000+ hits on YouTube.
Peaceful actions in Harvey Norman stores have been happening all across the country over the last few weeks, including Melbourne, Sydney, Nowra, Hobart and Launceston.
‘This charred scene of forest devastation here in Southern Tasmania stands as a stark symbol of the industrial scale logging operations that are ripping apart Australia’s native forests every single day. Harvey Norman needs to stand up, show some genuine environmental leadership and stop selling native forest products to the Australian people’ said Ms Majewski.
Giant ‘No Harvey Norman No!’ banner unfurled in the midst of Tasmanian forest destruction
This morning, 25 activists unfurled a giant banner in a 72ha clearfell logging coupe in Tasmania’s south to protest retailer Harvey Norman’s continued sale of wood products sourced from native forests.
The banner, which states ‘No Harvey Norman No! Don’t buy forest destruction!’, is one of the largest banners ever unfurled in Australia, measuring 60 x 18 metres. A number of endangered wedge tailed eagles circled overhead as the banner was unfurled.
‘The Last Stand is sending a giant message straight from the decimated forest floor to Harvey Norman that selling forest destruction is no way to do business in the 21st century. We are taking a stand and saying no Harvey no! Stop profiting from forest destruction’ said Ula Majewski, spokesperson for The Last Stand.
• Karliene Van Royen to face Burnie Magistrates Court at 10:00 AM
Karliene Van Royen, a peaceful member of non-violent community action group CODE GREEN, who has been held in custody over the weekend after being refused bail by Tasmania Police, Burnie, and the Burnie Magistrates Court, will appear in the Burnie Magistrates court this morning at 10:00 AM.
The protester has no priors, has never had any confrontations with the law and showed exemplary conduct during the course of her demonstration at the Harvey Norman outlet in Marine Terrace, Burnie. She is absolutely committed to non-violent peaceful direct action and hence poses no risk to the public. There is absolutely no reason to suggest that she would not have complied with bail conditions upon release.
The neuroscience student from Adelaide has worked closely with Climate Change panels and came to Tasmania to raise awareness about the importance of Tasmania’s unique high conservation value native forests to the rest of the world. She was peacefully asking for Harvey Norman to change their wood sourcing policies, halt all procurement of timber from native forest and only use plantation timber in the manufacturing of their products.
Tasmania Police, Burnie and The Burnie Magistrates Court have treated Karliene as they would hardened, violent and dishonest criminals that pose a serious threat to society. To treat a contributing upstanding member of community like this is inexcusable. Karliene and CODE GREEN remain undeterred in their struggle for the protection of Tasmania’s unique high conservation value native forests.
Karliene will be represented by Vanessa Bleyer of Bleyer Lawyers.
Media Update 15th August
Protester finally given bail after being held in custody for 2 days
Peaceful community protester Karlien van Rooyen, was granted bail when she appeared in the Magistrate’s Court at Burnie this morning.
Her bail conditions restrict her from loiting within 75meter of any Harvey Norman store in the state of Tasmania. No surety was imposed for her bail.
Protester, Colette Harmsen, who took part in the same protest at a different location on that day, was astonished to hear that Karlien was not released on bail as she had been. Considering that Colette had a prior trespass offence, she thinks that “... it is a concern that there is no consistency and Karlien‘s bail was opposed when she has never had any prior offences”.
The officer who initially opposed Karlien’s bail had later confessed that he had used her “as an example to other young activists protesting in the state” and that they were “wasting our time”.
“I never predicted I could end up in such a place, given the importance of such unique and beautiful Tasmanian native forests.” Said Miss van Rooyen
“Demonstrated again in court this morning, a disproportionate discretion, placed upon the shoulders of a young, shining example of an Australian citizen.” Said Mr Irwin
Karlien was represented by Vanessa Bleyer of Bleyer Lawyers.
• Brown backs Harriss’ call for up-front forest consideration
Australian Greens Leader Bob Brown says there is good sense in Legislative Councillor Paul Harriss’ call for state parliament to be involved up-front with Tasmania’s $276 million forest deal with the Commonwealth.
“The Greens urged Labor to ensure the disbursement of the $276 million go hand-in-hand with the immediate protection of High Conservation Value forest as in the 2010 agreement between the logging industry and environmentalists,” Senator Brown said.
“This whole process was started by the logging corporations. The HCV forests should be protected as national parks, with legislation through the state parliament, so the $276 million can roll out to stakeholders as agreed.”
• South East Forest Rescue serves summons
SEFR v SEFE
The conservation group South East Forest Rescue has today served summons on both South East Fibre Exports, the Eden Chipmill owned by Japanese company Nippon Paper Group, and Bega Valley Shire Council. SEFR have commenced court action in the Land and Environment Court over the chipmill’s proposal to build a factory that makes pellets, to be burned in heaters, from native forest trees.
SEFR are seeking an order by the Court that the development consent be declared invalid.
Bega Valley Shire Council granted the development consent in June, despite much opposition from the community and despite being advised by SEFR that if the council consented they would be in breach of the law.
“This is an auspicious day,” said Ms Lisa Stone, spokesperson for South East Forest Rescue. “Due to the Forestry and National Park Estate Act citizens have not had chance to publically have native forestry operations put before a court, or for the woodchipping industry to be held accountable for their actions. This is the first time in 13 years that the public has had an opportunity to seek justice.”
“The brilliance of the law is twofold in that anyone may attend the court cases and the findings are made public,” said Ms Stone. “For too long the woodchipping industry has been above the law, and even though SEFE directly engages the Eden contractors, many of whom have been found to be conducting unlawful operations, SEFE themselves have been untouchable.”
“We have direct proof from Forests NSW themselves that SEFE accepted logs that were felled from the gazetted Aboriginal Place on Mumbulla Mountain that was illegally logged in 2010,” said Ms Stone. “And that is just one instance among many. We state that the buck stops with SEFE. They are ultimately responsible and in our view they are vicariously liable for their contractors unlawfulness.”
The Environmental Defenders Office has advised SEFE to discontinue work on the proposed factory as the work may be deemed to be in breach of the law. SEFR have sought an undertaking from SEFE that they will discontinue building until the decision of the Court is handed down.
“Pellet production poses a particular threat to Australia’s native forests,” said Ms Harriet Swift, spokesperson for the conservation group Chipstop. “This is because this type of production seems completely unregulated, whether the pellets are exported, or used domestically.”
Court proceedings will commence this week.
UPDATE: South East Fibre Exports has refused to be served with the summons and has called the police to remove the process servers
South East Forest Rescue
‘Stoppin the Choppin’